Archive for October, 2016

So You Wanna Be A San Francisco Voter

I am a firm believer that everyone who wants to live in San Francisco should have to vote here first. It might help keep the rent costs down and hey, at least we haven’t tried it yet. I jest, I jest; more seriously, San Francisco just has too much damn democracy. In principle, the proposition system (hereafter referred to as Props most of the time) isn’t inherently terrible, but in the spirit that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, California in general and San Francisco in specific has perfected that when it comes to the ballot box. In a presidential election, we have outdone ourselves. On top of the Presidency, an open Senate seat, and the biannual running of “Nancy Pelosi’s seat will change hands when she says it will”, there are 42 (not a typo) city, regional, and state measures and Props. There are state questions that are worthy of our consideration and could help set the stage for more progress on some of these issues nationally (legalization of marijuana; repealing the death penalty; banning plastic bags), there are the local that are at least worth discussing (the soda tax falls into that category for me), some local votes that will determine much about how we approach these problems going forward (I believe 6 Supes are up for re-election or termed out, including mine; the Jane Kim v Scott Wiener State race) are there are some that are just ridiculous (looking at you, Prop Q). There’s a whole lot that falls in between. I like to do a little (heh) write-up to help me approach. One, it makes me not only justify my vote to myself, but to others; while it’s not a requirement, it helps me strengthen my positions, and in some cases, change my mind on issues I just hadn’t researched or thoroughly interrogated. While it’s not necessarily out loud, looking at it on paper is different than mulling it over in your head. Two, god forbid you are a voter here, but if you are, good luck. Perhaps you too will find some of my analysis useful, or at least what I end up digging up useful. Three, it’s always enjoyable to make fun of excess with more excess. In that spirit, let us proceed into the dark, tenebrous depths of the mind of a San Francisco voter trying to approach the ballot with some amount of efficacy left:

Note: any names you see in the headers are the actual names, though many of them have shortened or entirely different shorthand. But I think it’s instructive to look at how things are worded on as many levels as possible. All numbers at the local level courtesy of: http://www.sfethics.org/ethics/2016/06/campaign-finance-dashboards-june-7-2016-and-november-8-2016-elections.html I’ll try to link to anything else relevant as I go.

Federal Offices:

President and Vice President:

You’re joking, right? Look, it’s good to start out with an easy one, so I guess I’ll take it. It’ll get harder from here. I can’t tell you how to vote, but I have a lot of questions if you are choosing to vote for Donald Trump. Mind you, not voting against Hillary, or for your party, or whatever other reason you may have lodged in your brain somewhere, but explicitly voting for a racist, sexist, nihilistic, narcissistic, lying, proudly ignorant demagogue because you actually like that choice. I just really wonder why. For my part? I’d like to keep having rights, and I would like for women, black people, Latinx people, Muslims, LGBT folks, and everyone else he seems intent to grind under his boot to keep having rights too. Do we have a lot of work to do to make sure those of us who are not able white cishet males who have an overwhelming tendency to be Christian also have the opportunities to be our best selves every day? Of course.Let’s do that work instead of giving into fear and a dystopian vision. One of the running jokes during 2016 has been claiming Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, but I am beginning to think we’ve been focusing on the wrong bit of Bay Area history that’s truly relevant to 2016.

I’m with her: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine

United States Senator:

Thankfully the national offices are easier than what’s to come. This one isn’t really that hard, either, but it deserves a few words. Thanks to Proposition 14 in 2010, California has what is called a Top-Two Primary system, which means the top two are selected irrelevant of party because all candidates are on the same list. In a state where we have a lot of Democratic control at many levels, a measure like this ostensibly should create more competition than just running a sacrificial Republican who has no chance, and arguably help create better races. Or perhaps not better, but more contested? I’m not entirely sure, I didn’t live here when Prop 14 passed, but the result is this is a race between two Democrats, Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris. Two women running to replace a woman is pretty awesome. It’s been an uphill race, as this seat is widely considered Kamala Harris’s to lose, and she deserves some criticism. The California Department of Justice, which she heads as the Attorney General (AG), recently arrested and charged Backpage.com’s CEO with help from the AG of Texas, which, while not surprising, is incredibly disappointing since moves are just more in a long line that hurt sex workers. Not surprising, since a lot of liberals still have staunchly conservative ideas when it comes to sex work, but disappointing nonetheless. And I get it, she’s just enforcing the laws we have, but we make choices which ones to emphasize enforcement of, too. I’m anti-sex trafficking, don’t get me wrong; I just don’t think this is really the most expeditious way to address those kinds of issues. A lot of it gets tied up in our immigration laws, and how we treat folks on the margins of society, and I’d rather see us focus our efforts on making those aspects better, but I digress. She also fought against providing gender affirming care to prisoners (though the state later conceded on that front), which bothers me since it’s medically necessary care. Of course, she also helped make California the first state that outlawed gay and trans panic defenses and one of her positions is to fight for that nationwide. And she works to fight human trafficking as the AG too. Reality is frequently more complicated than we want it to be, and we are imperfect machines trying to make always rational decisions. Sometimes we get really focused on one thing and forget others. Which isn’t to say that I’m going to forget the negatives, but I like a lot of the positives about here, and I haven’t read or seen much about Loretta Sanchez that has changed my mind on that front. While I would love to see some positions regarding housing and transportation from Kamala Harris considering the need for action on that in this state and on the national front, I don’t see anything about that from Loretta Sanchez either.

I voted for her in the primary and nothing’s happened since that changed my mind: Kamala Harris

United States Representative, District 12:

Again, another easy one. You can throw a protest vote Preston Picus’s way all you want. There’s nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t seem like a bad dude. But barring unprecedented events, this seat is Nancy Pelosi’s until she says otherwise. That may be soon, she’s 76, after all, but her age is still below her average vote percentage she gets in elections here. I have no real bone to pick with her. I have voted for more exciting Representatives in my life (one of many Minneapolitans who helped elect the first Muslim US Rep, for example), but again, there’s a lot of other stuff to focus on here. Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be.

Counting on the rest of the country to make her Speaker one more time: Nancy Pelosi

State:

State Senator District 11:

San Francisco has term limits for Supes at eight consecutive years on the board followed by at least four years out, and for some Supes, the next step is going to Sacramento. It really seems like more of a punishment than anything else (I jest, I jest, though really, have you been to Sacramento?), but that’s the next logical step for a lot of folks who are career-minded and have served on the Board here. This year, we’re putting forth two Democrats, either of whom could serve us well in a number of capacities, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim. They represent what is in effect the two party split here in what we call the moderate and progressive factions of a largely Democratic town. Even in three years of living here, I haven’t really gotten a great handle on what it means to be in one wing or the other, though it seems to rear itself most in housing, with the moderates frequently being accused of being in the pockets of big developers to push through more housing and line their pockets in one pessimistic view and the progressives being so wrapped up in keeping San Francisco affordable that they will fight the agents of gentrification, those builders of multi-story buildings that will steal sunlight and breezes and views and bring parking and not help those who can’t afford it, contributing to the death of the neighborhood. The truth is more boring and muddled, of course, but a shorter version is moderates tend to be more pro-all housing and less concerned with things like character at all costs and progressives tend to be more pro-affordable housing and neighborhood character, a battle of building what will come next versus protecting what’s already there. For me, housing is a, no, the major issue. I may be fortunate, but who knows when my luck will change? If it does, I’m done in the City. I cannot afford to keep up without the deal I have. But that also doesn’t mean that deal is equitable. I basically won a lottery when I found this place. And that’s not really a great way to maintain a city in my opinion, and whether it’s just plain old rent control or more income-adjusted types, it still ends up being a lottery. I am of the mind that more housing will help us address many of those issues, and I’m not particularly sympathetic to changing views and changing streets as we do not live in a museum, we live in a city. Even museums rotate through their collections quite a bit. While there are things I am not a huge fan of with Wiener (such as his love of a “robust police force”, whatever that means), I’m a big fan of his housing and transportation platforms; both present somewhat token responses on things like Vision Zero; both stand for many of the same things in general. In addition, I’m a little turned off by the “save the soul of our city” nature of Kim’s campaign. Save it for whom? Do I count as someone who hasn’t lived here that long? Is it my City too? The reality is it’s a lot of different cities to a lot of different people. If she gets elected, I won’t be disappointed. Her positions on criminal justice reform and housing have huge aspects I support, but I don’t think her vision on housing aligns nearly as much with my vision on housing. Call me a supply-side housing advocate all day long as a jeer if you want to, I still think that’s a better way forward; I’d rather see us try to make housing affordable than just make affordable housing, especially considering how much that costs the City and State to actually produce those units.

Gotta go with what matters most to me and what I think will impact the City and State most long term on this one: Scott Wiener

Member of the State Assembly District 19:

A relative rarity on the ballot, this is a race between a Democrat and a Republican. To give you an idea of how this race is viewed, it’s not even in the SF Chronicle’s voter guide. Phil Ting is the incumbent Democrat representing San Francisco. He won it with 77 percent of the vote in 2014. In 2012, he won 58 percent of the vote in a two D race. While the district is a bit more than the western half of San Francisco (it has some weird boundaries in the City) including Daly City, Broadmoor, Colma, and a bit of South City, it’s safe to say this is a reliably Democractic seat. Many ballot guides don’t even have any recommendations in this race. Even those that support him have milquetoast statements saying little more than they endorse him. But he did receive a Golden Wheelie from the SF Bike Coalition?

I see no reason to reinvent the wheel: Phil Ting

Nonpartisan Offices:

Judicial: Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7:

Why do we vote on judges? It’s weird, you know. They are also incredibly difficult to accurately research much of the time since a lot of what they do is stuff you will neither find a good write-up for nor find the actual information about. In fact, this race doesn’t even appear in most of the guides I’ve looked at. I also feel like I just voted for this. That’s because I did on June 6th in a primary. Paul Henderson and Victor Hwang won the run-off, and here they are. Unfortunately I didn’t do a handy write-up for the primaries, so I can’t point to that, but I did, based on research then, go with Victor Hwang. I see no reason to change that now.
Gonna trust I did an alright job last time and move on with life: Victor Hwang

School:

Board of Education:

Both this and the Community College seats are Vote for no more than four candidate positions. And they are the same names that come up over and over. It’s too bad I don’t know more considering these kinds of votes are actually quite important. It can be a springboard to possible bigger things like in the case of Sandra Fewer, but they also just have a lot of influence about the direction of schools and colleges in the City. And that kind of stuff matters, no doubt. Like judges, it’s hard to find much. A lot of spilled ink regarding everything else, but not a lot on this.Again, this is another office that seems to come up a lot. No, I still never know what to do.

In what may be the most surprising thing I found, both the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner agree on the same four individuals. Matt Haney, Jill Wynns, and Rachel Norton are all incumbents, and both publications like Stevon Cook to replace Sandra Fewer. I feel bad that I’m not necessarily deeply researching all of these, but I am a person with limited time and means. The current board seems like it’s doing a decent job of directing where things are going. Stevon Cook seems like an able and willing person to step into that seat. The only other person who really seems worth consideration is Trevor McNeil. They both have strong education backgrounds, and McNeil has some stout endorsements, including Nancy Pelosi. It’s tough. I think either would do the job well.

However, these are my four: Matt Haney, Jill Wynns, Rachel Norton, and Stevon Cook

Community College Board:

Alright, let’s not make this too complex. There are four open seats and five people running. Three of them are incumbents, Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, and Amy Bacharach, and two are newcomers (though they aren’t entirely new), Tom Temprano and Shanell Williams. I think the incumbents have done a decent job guiding the institution the past few years. I think Shanell Williams is a good fit for the fourth seat. Maybe there are some progressives in San Francisco who can change my mind.

My four: Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, Amy Bacharach, and Shanell Williams

State Propositions:

No, I don’t know why half the state Props have really useless names. I just work with what they give me

Proposition 51: School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School And Community College Facilities

I would love to never have to vote on something like this. Of course, that is contingent on the underlying tax structure of your state not being broken. Just say no to the Prop system, because it leads to things like Prop 13. But here we are. Besides, it’s all speculative, we may still need a bond like this. But one of the things that’s not speculative, though some doubt its impacts at all on funding state services, is California does have pretty poor education. One could question how the government is spending the money it is bringing it. But no question, the way the government brings in money is different than it was before 1978, and it did impact how much is directed to education via property taxes. So instead we vote on things like this. In this case, are we going to authorize $9B in general bonds, broken down between $3B for new construction and $3B for modernization of K-12 facilities as well as $1B to charter and vocational schools and $2B to for community colleges. It’ll end up costing us almost 2x that. There are a lot more details than that getting into exact usage, but that’s the gist. By my interpretation, this is just part of the pot to pay for school projects as much of the funding also comes from the local level, so it may incent more depending on your municipality. Or it may not.
I am conflicted on this one. I think education funding is important, but one of the criticisms I keep finding is it locks California into some already arcane rules regarding how school projects are funded. Unsurprisingly, most of the local resources are pro this Prop, but another criticism is it favors more affluent areas. So let’s follow the money. There have been no funds contributed against this measure, even though Jerry Brown himself is against it. On the for side, they’ve raked in over $10M. It’s what you’d expect, with the largest contributions from California Building Industry Association Issues Committee. It makes sense builders would be kicking in, since this is the kind of work that goes to builders. But let’s step back to the more basic issue. No matter who you ask, California has a poor education system, near the bottom of many rankings, yet we just passed France for the 6th largest economy in the world.This really seems at odds. Until you remember it’s California and we have a lot of messed up laws and Props to navigate with all of this. And it sounds like, unfortunately, kicking into this right now is going to perpetuate one of those systems. Like I said, I’m conflicted, but especially given that it’s a Prop, it’s better to vote no and get it right the second time than vote yes on something that cannot be fixed easily. Until we fix that?

Let’s get it right first: NO on Prop 51 (though I’m guessing this will be a yes when the dust settles)

Prop 52: Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program

This is one of those Props that is designed to keep doing what a previous legislation put in place. The basics appear to be to continue a funding system so that hospitals pay in to obtain matching funds to provide coverage for Medi-Cal, covering people like uninsured individuals, children, seniors, low income folks. It’s hard to feel bad about that. It also has some safety mechanisms in place to keep the state from diverting those funds, which is pretty necessary for any sort of measure that has set-asides.

As I see it, there are two main reasons to object. One, we should just let legislators due their job. They passed it the first time in the 2009, and it may well be a better thing to let them handle. Two, set-asides are bad budgeting. They can backfire quite quickly. But I don’t think either of them are sufficient reasons. While I am always leery of putting things into the State Constitution (since we have to do this all over again should the needs change), this is the kind of thing we should be putting in there. It’s specific enough that it does not seem it will lead to abuse and it supports a specific need. It has fairly robust support from a lot of different groups. I can get behind that too.

Let’s cover those who need it most: YES on Prop 52

Prop 53: Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval

This would require statewide voter approval of any bond that exceeds $2B. Can you tell how excited I am to vote on 42 city, regional, and state measures already? Do you think I really want to vote on more? I don’t really understand what problem this solves. I thought we elected folks to make these kinds of decisions for our state, and yet we still do stuff like this all the time. I don’t see why we should add yet another layer in a state that already has so many layers. It doesn’t even come up that much as there are not that many projects over $2B, but many of them are projects like high-speed rail and transportation measures. Bills like this tend to have a couple effects. They either make things harder, or they push everything to a $1.99B set of bonds. It is widely opposed by many disparate groups. It’s the effort of one man opposed to a large-scale water diversion project and high speed rail essentially. While I am not up to speed on the water diversion project in the Delta (and I probably should be), I can say my personal opinion of high-speed rail is we need it now, and things like this won’t help. A one-man crusade that’s going to make future ballots more complicated or hamstring local projects for no good reason? That’s not what we need.
I like infrastructure. Let’s not make it any harder to build: NO on Prop 53

Prop 54: Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings

Ah transparency. Something we all we want. This is designed to prohibit the Legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and on the Internet for at least 72 hours, except for public emergencies. It also has some measures to allow recording (and in some cases, require them) as long as it’s not a closed session proceeding. An emergency would require the Governor to declare a state of emergency and two thirds of the house to consider passing it faster.

There are two lenses I tend to view most of these ballot measures through. Should this even be a Prop and is this going to improve our government or the services we provide? I tend to think even many of the things I end up supporting shouldn’t be Props, so that’s unfortunately not always useful. But the second one comes up a lot. How is this going to make our legislature in California work better? How is this going to help us solve the problems that our state faces? I have trouble seeing how this does. I am all for the increased transparency measures, but the time limit is at odds with how our government works unfortunately.
Again, this is another time to follow the money. It’s largely funded by Charles Munger, Jr.. He has previously supported an effort to change how California’s redistricting worked. And honestly, I can get behind that. But again, it’s the design of itthat seems a bit…off. And that’s where I am with this. While I generally support transparency measures and certainly legislatures all across the country take advantage of the lack of it, I’m not sure I like this. I’m not trying to be overly cynical about it, but I don’t know if it actually stops any of that bad legislation or it just makes it take 72 hours instead of happening right away. I personally think it’s more of the latter. Are we really holding politicians accountable? Perhaps. But it also seems like a chance to politicize bills that are routine. And in the interests of transparency, this is a measure one man spent almost $10M to get on the ballot. Such democracy we have…
Transparency is great, but let’s find it another way: NO on Prop 54

Prop 55: Tax Extension To Fund Education and Healthcare

Currently, we have a measure enacted in 2012 that taxes high earners ($250K single, $500/$340 for joint/head of household) additionally to fund K-12, community college, and healthcare programs. This is designed to extend that through 2030. As one might expect, this is broadly supported in the Bay Area. Which…well, we have a lot of people that would apply to here. While I understand the Chronicle’s no position, I don’t entirely agree with it in this one. I have certainly argued we should fix the underlying system as well (just four Props ago), but I think this is different than a bonding bill because…well, it’s not a state bond. Yes, we need to fix the damage that things like Prop 13 did, which certainly contributes to us having to vote on stuff like this, but is that going to magically fix itself because of a no vote here? It was sold as a temporary measure at the time, and that is also a common argument to vote against it. I am sympathetic to that, but I just don’t see the arguments advanced by most of the major papers in the state coming true. Will rejecting the status quo actually change it? I am specious about that line of reasoning in this case. Again, I think that’s a bit different with a bond like in Prop 51 (since we do have to pay for that), and I get the danger in relying heavily on top earners, but honestly, I’d be perfectly happy if this extended it indefinitely. And if I ever made enough to get taxed under this? I’d happily pay it.

I just don’t buy the arguments against this: YES on Prop 55

Prop 56: Cigarette Tax To Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, And Law Enforcement

I’ve mentioned I’m pro-sin tax before, I’ll say it again. This is designed to increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack to fund health care measures.. Increased costs do tend to make it harder for people to get into habits like this. While I even agree with it in this case, I’m just not a big fan of the “what about the children!?!” arguments of the world. Still, that argument is accurate and tobacco is something we all pay for whether we smoke it or not. I’d say the same thing if there were an increased tax on alcohol, even though I like it. These are things that have societal costs, which isn’t to say people shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy them; it just says they should be appropriately costed. The usual suspects are funding efforts to defeat this. If you find yourself on the opposite side of Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds, that’s a good thing in my book. This is an excise tax which largely funds Medi-Cal, which pays for a lot of smoking-related care. This seems like a decently designed measure. And if it eventually stops bringing in as much money? That’s good.

We’ll probably all be smoking joints instead anyway, so does it really matter?: YES on 56

Prop 57: Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings And Sentencing

To say that the United States of America has a problem with its justice system would be an understatement. We have a problem with our prisons here. We have too many people in them for terrible reasons. We have a racist, classist system that locks folks away and forgets about them. Or worse yet, profits from them.This Prop is designed to allow increased parole considerations for nonviolent felons, as well as increased sentence credits for things like good behavior. It also makes changes to whether some juveniles should be tried as adults. While I’d be in favor of even more robust action, these are modest measures that honestly should already be in place. We need to make a better world, and throwing people in prisons is something we need to spend much more time thinking about as a society. We all pay these costs, though it’s obvious who pays the brunt of these costs. Considering all the myriad ways the system is unfair, especially for people of color, we need to be looking at ways to make it better. This is a minor way of doing that. And an overdue one.

In a strange big of weirdness, both Jerry Brown and Newt Gingrich support this measure. That is not a typo. Opposition includes a whole bunch of Rs (as well as Loretta Sanchez) and numerous police associations and district attorneys. No one, for or against, really makes the arguments that matter if you ask me.Yes, in a purely cynical sense, reducing the number of people in prison will reduce the cost. If we are only focusing on the monetary cost. And yes, this is because the Supreme Court ruled our prisons are overcrowded, a violation of the Eight Amendment. We can do better, we can go further. But let’s take this step right here. This isn’t one of those issues where passing a small reform now makes things harder. Let’s keep passing more reform in regard to our prisons. Our current system fails lots of people, and it especially fails those on the margins of society. I’d rather see us be more aggressive in dismantling the present system. But if we have to dismantle it brick by brick, so be it.
Another small step, but hopefully not the last one: YES on Prop 57

Prop 58: English Proficiency. Multilingual Education

California has a reputation as being this open and liberal place. It’s not underserved, but it’s also full of lots of discrimination too. I get why we want folks in our education system to learn English (and really, to specifically learn Standard American English), but Prop 227 back in 1998 significantly restricted the use of bilingual programs. Or at least made them much harder to implement. Which doesn’t seem like the smartest way to go about it. Fear of a non-English speaking country doesn’t magically teach kids English. So the most significant aspect of this Prop is to restore bilingual programs that have shrunk across the state since Prop 227 passed. And that’s basically what I think the problem is. Perhaps some kids will do fine if they are just immersed in English. But perhaps some kids won’t. We shouldn’t be trying to approach every student the same way and Prop 227 put up barriers on bilingual education as seen by the precipitous drop in the number of schools that have them now. In addition, we live in a multilingual world. Let’s celebrate that instead of passing and continuing to support fearful laws like this. Anyway, this is the guy who was a main proponent on getting it Prop 227 through in the first place. That makes supporting it even easier.

Let’s broaden our approach to how we teach children: YES on 58

Prop 59: Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections

Because we Californians don’t have enough other stuff to deal with, how about a nice non-binding measure? No, I’m serious. We have a non-binding measure about whether to ask our elected officials to do what they can to propose and ratify an amendment overturning Citizens United. As much as I am not a fan of Citizens United, this seems like a poor use of a Prop. I mean, this is going in the state charter. But Citizens United is egregiously awful. Corporations do not have speech. And sure, we’re just shouting into the air here, but if it’s here, I might as well support it because I do support it. At least this isn’t one of the many disingenuous measures I have to vote on. Now stop doing things like this with our ballot because I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do with my time, California.

Sure, fine, whatever: YES on 59

Prop 60: Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements.

Have I mentioned that we have a lot of Props this year? And I have mentioned that some of them are ridiculous? Someone (bless them) decided that we should all vote to have adult film performers (amateur or professional) wear condoms during the filming of intercourse. There’s also some aspects of it that seems less galling, like requiring producers to pay for performers’ vaccinations, testing, and examinations related to STIs, and that gets at the heart of it. This is supposedly a measure about “workplace safety”, but the devil is always in the details with these ballot measures. While the use of condoms gets a lot of billing promoting the measure, what is really onerous about this is the fact that any Californian can sue the productions if they suspect they aren’t meeting health and safety standards (condoms obviously being a part of that). That would cost the state a lot and open a lot of porn performers up to increased risk since they could be liable in those suits, which would make their personal information public as well. This isn’t to mention this is a ridiculous thing for our whole state to be deciding. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be health standards in the porn industry, but this doesn’t seem to actually care about them. This strikes me as a morality bill masquerading as a health bill. Considering how disparate the opposition is (my favorite line of the state ballot book is that this is the only initiative both the California Democratic Party and California Republican Party oppose), and how everyone who works in said industry is opposed to it, it’s easy to vote no. Considering there are already laws protecting the workers at state and federal levels, it’s even more laughable. It’s just not a good bill. It seems the guy who got this on there, Michael Weinstein and his organization AHF, have a…curious history, and set up what has to be the most ridiculous provision I’ve seen yet in a Prop where if the state declined to defend a legal challenge, the group that wrote the bill drafted language to not only allow them to defend it, but gets sworn in as state employees that are difficult to fire. This is why we can’t have nice things, California.

This bill is a poorly written joke: NO on Prop 60

Prop 61: State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards.

Look, I’ve read a lot of Props. And I’m not really sure what this one is supposed to do. I read the words. I get it says it’s supposed to prohibit state agency from buying prescriptions over a price threshold set by what the VA paid (except in certain cases). But I’m not sure how this necessarily ameliorates what it’s supposed to. The goal is to lower the price of prescriptions. However, pinning it to prices that are not set and could go up just seems like it could hurt lots of people. Obviously there are plenty of odious things about the pharmaceuticals industry, and it’s hard to stomach voting against something they are spending a lot of money to try and get folks to vote against. But when a bill pins something against a moveable target, things can get out of hand quite quickly. We could end up with a situation where veterans pay a lot more because that’s the lever that can still be pulled. Maybe that won’t happen. I am guessing we’ll get a chance to see that. This one probably has a good chance to pass, and I don’t have a problem with the message being sent. But I worry about the outcomes.
I just don’t think this is the right way to do this: NO on Prop 61

Prop 62: Death Penalty

Luckily, there are some paired initiatives, or at least initiatives diametrically at odds with each other, such that you know what you are going to vote on one based on what you vote on the other, or should. It’d be odd to vote to repeal the death penalty but also later vote to essentially speed up the death penalty. This is a pretty basic one. Do you want to appeal the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole (this also applies retroactively to existing sentences). Let’s make this quick. You can read all the measures and opinions you want, but at the end of the day, it’s a simple question. Do you feel comfortable with state-sanctioned murder? I don’t like it any more than I like non-state sanctioned murder. I don’t think that’s a decision we can easily make. I think it’s important to look at the disproportionate impact the death penalty has on people of color. It’s important to look at just how often our justice system gets these kinds of things wrong. I don’t think that’s a decision we should be making as a society. I think it’s bad for us as a society. I think it’s morally dubious. I think it’s a waste of money. I think it’s racist in its implementation. I think it’s not our decision to make.

But it should be our decision to get rid of the death penalty: YES on 62

Prop 63: Firearms. Ammunition Sales

Hey, Gavin Newsom’s Prop made it through! This is designed to require background checks, prohibit large-capacity magazines, require sales through licensed vendors for ammo, etc., etc., etc. It’s basically the kind of low-hanging fruit that comes up a lot. You’ll be shocked to know the arguments against are largely the criminals do not follow laws. The violation of civil liberties they decry requires folks who buy stuff like this to fill out a bit more paperwork. Me? I’d be fine melting down every gun for slag. It is not a burden. It is a responsibility. I’m just going to put this right here. I’m done with our fetishization of the Second Amendment. Yes, I understand this isn’t necessarily the kind of measure that’s really going to change that, but the arguments about how this is going to make it harder for us to protect ourselves from ISIS is effing ridiculous. I have a harder time making sure my prescriptions are right every four weeks than folks do buying guns. The Second Amendment may allow you to own firearms, and perhaps that will never change in my lifetime. I don’t see this kind of legislation moving the needle all that much. But to argue this kind of action (really, any kind of action) is onerous? No, I refuse to believe that. I know that there are a lot of other measures that need to be undertaken to address gun violence, and this really doesn’t do a whole lot about that. But again, that’s no reason to do nothing. Perhaps this is something to build on. I’d rather see that happen in Sacramento than on my ballot…

But since they asked me?: YES on 63

Prop 64: Marijuana legalization

Sometimes when I’m at a show, or even just biking around, it’s hard to believe that marijuana isn’t legal just based on my sense of smell. San Francisco has a fairly blasé reputation when it comes to enforcing those rules; one of my first experiences with that was when I noticed someone taking a hit at a show and the staff came up and seemed to just encourage him to step more into the crowd and not be so obvious about it. It is the antithesis of how I’ve seen venues approach underage drinking. Then again, there’s a world of difference in the liability. After all, the venue didn’t provide the marijuana.

This is not California’s first go-round with this, and the rather relaxed nature of medical marijuana and lax attitudes (at least in the Bay Area) do a lot to contribute to the fact that it appears de facto legal in many cases. But it is not legal, as I’m sure many, many folks can tell you. Even if you don’t like it, from a social justice standpoint, legalizing marijuana would go a long way, because while white and non-white individuals use it at similar rates, non-white individuals are far more frequently targeted for drug offenses. In addition, as opposed to the last effort in 2010, we have now seen a template in other states of successfully implementing legal marijuana. It will make it legal for folks 21 and older, it will put some rules in place regarding cultivation and sales, it includes standards regarding things like taxation and packaging and advertising, it still allows for an element of local control in terms of taxes and regulation, and it has an element to reconsidering sentencing for marijuana convictions? Look, it’s not perfect, but it’s hard to expect any law like this to be perfect the first time or even the second time around. We’ll know a lot more about how to approach it in terms of regulation once it’s legal. I think that’s a step worth taking. While the bill does nothing to ameliorate the disproportionate impact the war on drugs has had on black and brown communities, raises some different issues since they will likely be cut out of much of the equity these new legal enterprises generate, and still contains some measures that will probably used to harass them (like smoking while driving or at a non-licensed business), I still think legalization is an important step forward because our current policy has obviously and abjectly failed far too many people. We would be the biggest state by far to push through such legislation, and I think that would send a strong signal.

It’s past time we adopted a more sensible approach to an issue where our current methods are not working, whether you want a toke or not: YES on 64

Prop 65: Carryout Bags

Because California is its own special kind of caricature, we have not one, but two plastic bag measures on the ballot this November. This one aims to redirect money collected from grocers and some retailers (who currently sell bags for $.10 in my experience, though it usually goes in the bike bag, so correct me if I’m wrong) to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board for…something? To make it even more Californian, the two Props play off each other…but they don’t really. If they both pass, who keeps the money depends on which measure gets more ballot votes. If Prop 65 passes and Prop 67 fails, the interpretation is that there’s no statewide bag law. If they both fail, well, they both fail. Breaking it down this way, one can see Prop 65 as mostly harmless if both pass, just dictating where the money goes, but it’s a disingenuous proposal. This is another one where it’s good to follow the money because it’s a trickier one. All of the money (as of 10/24/2016) for this measure has been contributed by American Progressive Bag Alliance, a Project of the Society of the Plastics Industry (Non-Profit 501 (c) (6)), Yes on 65 and No on 67. That name kinda gives up the game, you know? No money has been raised against it either. I don’t trust a Prop the plastics industry is spending over $6 million to try and push through. I get it, we all gotta make money, but I have a vested interest in the world not being wrapped in plastic. I joke about the lack of bags here, but honestly I rarely even use paper ones and the rare occasions I get plastic ones are mostly from periodic take-out. But even that usually just goes in a paper bag or the bike bag. It’s proof that behaviors change. Why do we want to take a backwards step on the off-chance this passes and Prop 67 doesn’t?
Follow the money and it’s an easy choice: NO on 65

Prop 66: Death Penalty

The Yin to Prop 62’s Yang, instead of getting rid of the death penalty, this aims to speed up the process, since death penalty cases frequently spawn lengthy appeals processes and legal challenges. I think we should get rid of all those lengthy appeals when it comes to the death penalty by just getting rid of the death penalty. There, we’ve already solved that problem. Moving on.

Why support for something I just voted to repeal? NO on 66

Prop 67: Ban On Single-Use Plastic Bags

This is on the ballot to uphold SB 270, which passed in 2014, banning single-use plastic and paper carryout bags. Basically, they all have to either be reusable or recycled paper bags, and they cost at least $.10. We are deciding whether to do that at the state level or push it back to the system we had before that, where municipalities and counties had more control over that. One of the wrinkles is to add a few more provisions around those laws, such as some new measures about what constitutes a reusable plastic bag, but on the whole, it’s just here to say whether or not we should keep what we’ve already been doing for two years. Have I mentioned yet the Prop system is a bit ridiculous. This is one of those things where many folks grumbled (myself included) when they were first introduced to it, in my case as a new resident in San Francisco which already had a measure at the city level before I lived here. But the thing is you get used to it really fast, and for something that is objectively terrible for the environment. The whole argument against is that this is a special sweetheart deal to the grocers of the state, a hidden “tax”. And sure, grocers do get to keep the funds, but whatever. Sure, it’s regressive in the sense that any sort of additional fee like this is going to be regressive, but little charges like this also drive behavior. Plastic is a wonderful discovery, but it’s killing our planet (creating a fascinatingly depressing phenomenon along the way) and it’s past time we moderated our use of it.

The fact that we even have something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is all I need to know. This is a little way we can all make a difference: YES on 67

School Propositions:

Prop A: School Bond

Remember way back when I was talking about Prop 51 and I mentioned that school bonding is the kind of thing that’s more effective at the local level? Well, here we are. This is to authorize $744M in general obligation bonds for upgrades. A lot of that is for things like seismic retrofits and modernization, but there’s also other layouts for an arts center, technology upgrades, and two new elementary schools. We have to invest in schools. It’s not something you can just pay for one time and move on with your life. And more kids live in San Francisco than we popularly like to joke. Whether or not the teachers can afford the City is a different problem, but hey, one things at a time. The City also appears to have decent success with capital bonds in the recent past. In addition, those new elementary schools would prioritize neighborhoods like Mission Bay and the Bayview, where they are needed. Almost every local organization or paper is for this or has no position. But this is another one of those instances where we have an obligation paying it forward. Not everyone can afford a private education here, despite the rumor we all dive in pools of money like Scrooge McDuck here. I’m a proud product of public education.

I don’t pay property tax, which is how this will be paid, but if I did, I happily would pay a little extra: YES on A
Prop B: City College Parcel Tax
The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) has a lot of problems, at least, if you ask me as someone who is only recently moved here. I’ve mostly heard about its accreditation woes, which have been a source of much handwringing since 2012. But setting aside that issue, CCSF is an important resource for the city and region. Like a lot of educational institutions, they’ve had a lot of trouble with funding in recent years. To stabilize the funding for CCSF (and other institutions of course), the state and the City have introduced a number of measures. In this case, this is a continuation of a parcel tax that was set to expire in 2020. This measure increases the tax from $79 to $99. They need the money to keep doing the good work they’ve been doing the past few years to reverse the negative course they were on before that. It’s all cyclical. The stabilization leads to increased enrollment leads to increased funds. They can afford to pay their instructors and other staff more, which they deserve. And again, we get back to the issues of public verses private, or who is served by what. Not everyone can go to a private school, or even needs to. Institutions like CCSF provide vital resources and opportunities for a number of people.

Let’s keep providing the support necessary for them to succeed: YES on B

City And County Propositions:

Prop C: Housing Loan Program

Apparently we have unspent seismic safety bond funds? This is news to me, though, in fairness, I didn’t live here in 1992 when that bond went into effect. This is designed to instead direct that bond funding into affordable housing. Unfortunately, it’s only $261M and we could only use $35M a year, but let’s be real. Affordable housing is a pressing need here, and any funding that can help contribute to purchasing, renovating, and rehabilitating that stock is something we should look at. Do we need to do a lot more here? Of course. This is not going to go very far in such an expensive place, but I see only upside in this one. We are just voting yes to redirect bond funds that we’ve already approved which are not currently being used.

It’s gonna take a lot more than this, but that’s no excuse not to put this to good use: YES on C

Prop D: Vacancy Appointments

Oh the progressive majority…thanks for taking our time to increase democracy. In this case, it’s one of those “seems like a good idea until you read about it more” measures. While a surprising number of local institutions and papers support this (I guess it’s not that surprising), I don’t really get it. The idea behind this measure is to stop the practice of vacancy appointments by the Mayor by making it so the Mayor has to appoint someone with 28 days, but then there’s a special election within 180 days in which that appointee cannot run. You still with me on this one?

Let’s get real for a minute on this idea. I think on the whole the idea of electing your elected officials is great, that’s what they are campaigning with as a slogan. But that’s a ruse. Someone who would only be there temporarily and couldn’t run again would do exactly what on the Board while we waited for the real election? Good question. In addition, special elections are a terrible idea because they will be low-turnout elections. Those sound just like the elections that would produce results like Prop B in 2014. Turnout in June was just under 265K with a presidential primary driving it and are generally up in even years with more to vote on, but recent odd years saw turn out for municipal elections below 130K at times. What would turnout look like for a mandated election at an unusual time for a City office? I’m not sure I want to find out. In addition, the measure has a feature that appears designed to help progressives keep their majority following the upcoming election, which is dirty pool. Poorly timed elections are not a way to guarantee we’ll all get a better outcome in our city elections; given the general nature of the four measures proposed by the progressive majority is mendacious in my opinion (and others), this is another easy one to vote against.

This measure is not what it purports to be: NO on D

Prop E: Street Trees

One of the first things I noticed when I lived here was cool random stumps carved into chairs. One of the other things I noticed is that lots of people sponsored trees. Because San Francisco doesn’t maintain all its trees. Weird, right? Parks and Rec were responsible for all city trees in Minneapolis. Even Saint Paul takes care of it trees. That’s right, even a city that can’t organize its garbage service in a sensible fashion takes care of its trees. Be ashamed, San Franciscans. This is another one of those issues almost every local org and publication can get behind, and with good reason. San Francisco currently has an inconsistent policy where they only maintain some of the street trees. I live on a street where they do, but perhaps you don’t. It’s a weird system. And it’s really not the kind of things that should be piecemeal. It’s hard to enact a plan for all of the City when you only plant in a 1/3 of it at street level.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note this has a set-aside, and set-asides aren’t great. In addition, they could have just done it themselves on the Board of Supervisors. The set-aside is a little ridiculous in that regard given they could have crafted a more malleable policy at the time, but for whatever reason, they pushed it to us. But the set-aside is basically the only reason to be against this. It’s bad, but in the scheme of a $10B budget, $20M is not much and we need an urban approach that covers the entire City.

They should have solved this before it got to me, but since you’re asking…: YES on E

Prop F: Local Voting Age

We love democracy so much now we are thinking about granting it to 16- and 17-year-olds. I’m not sure what the entire backstory to this is, but I can honestly say that, especially when I was in government classes in high school, my level of engagement was fairly high. Though it didn’t really touch on local issues. This, perhaps, had something to do with the nature of my high school. But we can all agree that voter engagement is low amongst young folks. And part of that is probably the whole nature of it. My first election was in 2000, I was in college, I had not really fostered that electoral responsibility ethic, and had I not been friends with a lot of other engaged people, who knows what would have happened? I won’t say I’ve voted in every election since then (I think I’ve missed a couple local elections/special election kind of affairs) but I’ve voted in most of them. It’s like anything, it’s practice. Giving young folks the opportunity to participate and engage in the process at the local level. If we’re looking at ways of increasing that kind of civic engagement this sure seems like a reasonable measure. Especially if that means getting young people involved in local level issues, where that engagement is critical but seems to be an afterthought. This seems like an opportunity to address two major issues at one time. In addition, engaging school children could have the added effect of engaging parents and guardians. One of the main arguments is that they aren’t up to the responsibility. The other one is that it might not be legal per the State Constitution. That one seems to have more merit, given the inconsistent way we treat young people in regards to whether they are adults or not makes me doubt the former. Still, not sure I get the sacred duty line the Chronicle is towing. Voting is a learned habit. Why not help folks learn that sooner and learn the value of local elections which have a higher impact on their day-to-day than many other things.

You learn to vote; let’s help teach that: YES on F

Prop G: Police Oversight

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for a while now. So much so the Department of Justice just delivered a scathing assessment. It was deserved, and in fact asked for, though because it’s a collaborative reform, it has less binding authority. It tells you what you already guessed, but the basics are the police disproportionately targets black and brown individuals, and disproportionately kills them as well. In addition, its overall accountability and diversity could use some word. This probably explains why I keep seeing messages on Nextdoor saying SFPD is hiring. This measure, on the other hand, is one about accountability. The renaming is aesthetics, but the real effect of this Prop is to remove the requirement the Police Commission approve the proposed budget of an agency designed to report on policy accountability.
I know, right? I had to read that twice too. We just passed a Prop in June that requires the currently named Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) to investigate any incident when someone is shot by SFPD. This is the next measure designed to increase that accountability. I don’t really care what it’s called, but I get the power in naming, and a Department of Police Accountability (DPA) is a pretty fair reminder of what it’s supposed to be doing. Because this is moving something out of the SFPD in terms of where it’s budgeted, this is actually something worth voting on, since that’s a City charter issue. Putting the DPA under a different budget umbrella could also help contribute to the efficacy and effectiveness of this group. And it’s something we need to do better. This is one step along the way.

Sure, DPA sounds cooler anyway: Yes on G

Prop H: Public Advocate

Have I mentioned yet we have too much democracy here? We also have too much government. Lots and lots of government. I can’t even keep track of everything, and I haven’t been here long enough to learn all of it. For a city with an estimated population just north of 846,000, I expect a certain amount. But anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so in that spirit, someone thought it’d be a great idea to add a new elected official if we so choose, a Public Advocate. To publicly advocate, I guess. This is a whole-cloth creation, a new position with new staff, and new powers to introduce legislation and hold hearings, oversee a variety of other agencies and programs, investigate complaints from citizens, and more. It sounds like it would be a fairly powerful office to some degree, and it could also streamline certain functions, putting one place in charge of many already existing oversight functions. But it also sounds like it’s just creating an office with a decent amount of power and no real vested interest in making the city function better if I read it right. Also, it sounds like lots of folks already do these functions, and it’s not like those positions would go away, it’s just this group would also have some role in the process. Which likely means more back-and-forth in a process that already seems to have a lot of that. But the most galling act is that this elected official would have the power to subpoena and compel testimony for reasons that I’m not entirely clear on. That’s a lot of power to give an elected official, especially one that doesn’t really appear to have its own purpose. Well, the role does have a purpose. This is one of the four measures (D, H, L, and M) that many outlets in the city highlight as outright power grabs as the progressive majority (which got them on the ballot with 6-5 votes) tries to chip away at the Mayor. The SF Chronicle in particular wrote a salty take-down of all four which is worth your time. It’s measures like these that sour me to the progressive majority. Don’t we have better problems to solve, and shouldn’t our elected officials be working on that instead of things like this?

You’d think. Let’s tell them so: NO on H

Prop I: Dignity Fund

The first time I was in Portland, I noticed the bus seating up front was for honored citizens. So much is in a name, isn’t it? This measure is designed to serve those honored citizens, seniors and adults with disabilities, by means of a set-aside starting at $38M and going up from there. In addition, it would create a new oversight committee. But the problem is mostly with the fact that it’s a set-aside, and a growing one. Certainly, it’s going to a group that needs it. Unlike the set aside on Prop E, it’s larger, but it’s still the same issue. Earmarking general budget funds that have to go to a specific purpose is not a great way to budget. And unlike Prop E, where I can at least get behind the fact it solves a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place (namely, who is responsible for the City’s trees), this doesn’t really address anything that cannot be handled through the normal budgetary process. Admittedly, I’m splitting hairs on the logic here, but that’s the problem when you ask me to vote on this much stuff. I stop making sense and start contradicting myself. Thanks San Francisco

We’re still gonna fund seniors and those in need with or without this. Let’s decide that through the normal process: NO on I (again, another one I can easily see passing and I don’t think we’ll regret on the whole…though I cannot wait to vote on changing the nature of that set-aside as another Prop 10 years from now)

Prop J: Dedicating the Prop. K Sales Tax

Prop K: Sales Tax for Transportation and Homelessness

Why is this on the ballot before the measure that funds it? I don’t know, that’s how little sense voting here makes. I get why they are separate measures, just…not sure why they are in the order they are in. So let’s talk about them together. Prop K and J are not linked on the ballot at all either which is odd. But that might explain the order as well. Prop K aims to increase the sales tax in the City (yes, they capitalize City on the ballot just like the rest of us) to 9.25%, an increase of .75% due to .25% expiring at the end of 2016. If Prop K passes on its own, it’s just a tax increase. Admittedly, a tax increase with a kill switch, but just a tax increase. Strangely, our current tax rate is actually lower than most nearby municipalities. Prop J looks to dedicate that increased funding generated to two specific inadequacies in the city: transportation and homeless resources. You don’t really have to sell me on either. Transportation is something I want to see more funding to go towards, especially as it goes towards improving our transit, biking, and walking. Homeless individuals are a critically underserved community everywhere, but it’s especially perverse here when you see so much wealth. Yes, it dedicates the funding, however these are two areas that need the funding, and it’s easy to see where the funding comes from because you’re voting on that too. They don’t matter unless we pass both of them.

We should pass both of them: YES on J and K

Prop L: MTA Board and Budget

Onto the third of the package deal to dilute the Mayor’s power, this one is designed to change how appointments are made to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors. Right now that power rests solely with the mayor. This is designed to split it between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. Funny this should come up at time when there’s a progressive majority, yet there never seems to be a progressive mayor. SPUR probably says it best when they note in their Pro section there is no compelling reason to support this measure. This politicizes the process of funding SFMTA projects who have enjoyed at least some independence in trying to make improvements to routes in the City (though there are still plenty of unruly residents to slow that down). So basically this is a measure to politicize appointments to the SFMTA board and make it harder for them to keep making the incremental improvements they’ve slowly been making throughout the City. Even in three and a half years, I’ve noticed a number of small incremental improvements, and I am loath to get in the way of that. Improving transit is a long-term project, it frequently requires some decisions that may not be entirely popular. We shouldn’t exacerbate that by creating a process with more friction. Muni is getting better, and for it to keep getting better, we ought to maintain that independence. I don’t see how splitting the board in half in terms of appointments creates accountability or reliably moves us forward.

Less government, more results: NO on L

Prop M: Housing and Development Commission

Nope: NO on M

Alright, fine, I’ll say something about the fourth and final odious progressive measure. It’s designed to create a new Housing and Development Commission. Or not really new because this department is just there to do things the Mayor’s office already does. The main argument I can see against this is if you don’t think the Mayor is doing a good job with this stuff. But laying all of that at the feet of the mayor seems…a bit too easy to me. It’s basically designed to move those functions out from under the control of the Mayor. And it doesn’t lay out how it plans to improve those things if they think they are all the Mayor’s fault. So it’s yet another layer making it more difficult to work on affordable housing and economic development. Reshuffling the deck without any considering for how it makes those functions better in a way that in all likelihood will make them worse? I cannot support that. Are you beginning to see why it’s hard to take the label progressive seriously here?

Still: NO on M

Prop N: Noncitizen Voting

This one goes along with Prop E in our expanded democracy measures here. Like, actual democracy, not this shame of Props that we have to vote on over and over. In this case Prop N would allow parents, guardians, and caregivers of children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in elections for the Board of Education, even if they are non-citizens. It may well be illegal to do this per the State Charter. It’s a five year measure, and if there are any significant issues, then it’ll be up to the Board of Supervisors. The other major issue is this would be thorny to implement, even more so than Prop E. Also, I’m not sure why I am even being asked. Still, it’s a relatively minor thing, and I don’t find an issue with creating avenues of engagement. This seems like it could, and the cost is relatively low.

This is less an endorsement and more a yeah, sure, whatever: YES on N

Prop O: Bayview Office Development
This Prop is designed to exempt office developments in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the annual office space cap. You didn’t know there was an office space cap? Thanks voters of the past! Anyway, it’s there and now we have to deal with it. We already approved a Prop in 2008 to get this project going at Candlestick Point. Which may happen…eventually? I don’t know. Personally, I think the office space cap is not that great, but I guess voters in 1986 had their reasons for supporting Prop M and that’s the world we’re living in. However, a project of this magnitude would basically eat up all of that capacity. This is a one-time measure to keep pushing forward something that’s desperately needed. Right now, Candlestick is a giant pile of rubble. Actually, that might all be cleared out by now, but there’s not much there. It is admittedly full of issues as a difficult part of the City to reach, but hey, we’re not voting on a measure to try and increase transit access to the southeast corner of the City. We should, but we are not. This is a development we need to move forward with as a city, and while this may lead to more one-offs at the ballot box rather than actual reform of Prop M. This project shouldn’t be held up anymore by poor decision of the past.

I have some minor issues, but given the one-off nature and the fact it’s required by previous legislation, it’s an easy vote: YES on O

Prop P: Competitive Bidding

Oh, hey, look, a housing measure. Actually, there aren’t that many related to that this year. This one is designed to increase bidding on competitive housing projects by requiring at least three proposals. Locking in at least three bids does not seem like a good idea in such a housing challenged place. In addition, the already try to find at least three bids, though they are not always successful. So I have no idea what this is really trying to accomplish. Since it’s unclear what this is actually trying to address since they already make good-faith efforts to proceed in the fashion laid out without the onerous requirement (which could be problematic due to the required minimum), I don’t see any reason to add this to the City Charter.

Don’t we have better things to vote on?: NO on P

Prop Q: Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks

I won’t say every time we vote there’s something odious. But this year there’s definitely something odious, and it’s Prop Q. Like most things, homelessness isn’t a uniquely San Franciscan problem, but we have our own special flavor: the excesses of the current tech boom and our supposed progressive nature (neither the first nor last shot I will take at what passes for progressivism here) mean we have the means, or at least should have means, to deal with what is a pretty straightforward issue. The homeless need to be housed; it’s not like they want to be out on the streets,and if you believe that, go volunteer at a shelter sometime and it’ll change your mind quick. Many do not have the resources to turn around their circumstances because of the myriad problems homelessness leads to and exacerbates, and the paradoxical ways they feed off each other. Salt Lake City has shown a pretty easy solution exists, however Salt Lake City doesn’t have water on three sides or nearly as many land use issues as San Francisco (also it’s over twice as large by land area and has less than a quarter of the population…you get the point). With more people living in the City these days, that’s more people who are seeing the reality of homelessness, or at least the reality they want to see. We should be saddened there are people living on the streets, we should be mad at ourselves for not providing the resources, for failing our fellow citizens. But frequently the reaction is not sadness, but disgust.

Along comes Prop Q. I’m not really sure what it’s trying to solve. Ostensibly, the idea is to get people out of tents, but the City doesn’t have enough beds for people as it is, which contributes to the chronic homelessness along with other factors. The City is already doing quite a bit to try and address chronic homelessness in terms of trying to get folks on the street into permanent housing, but once again, we run into a lack of housing to help address that at the level we need to. And this law doesn’t really seem to change any of that stuff too much. It’s basically just a fuck you to the people who are living on the streets from the rest of the City. What kind of message is that? In addition, it’s just another pretext to harass an at-risk population. I worry, though, that people will be more concerned with what they see than who they see. If we only see homeless people as tents that need to be removed because it makes walking through South of Market a little nicer, then who have we become? Are we voting on a bill just because we don’t want to have to brush against a reality that most of us still only barely intersect with? I worry about the answer, but for my part, I refuse to support such a mean-spirited Prop. We should help homeless folks.

This ain’t helping: NO on Q

Fun aside: the three major contributors in support of Q are Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, William Oberndorf, who owns his own business, and Ronald Conway of SV Angel, LLC. Be an angel and invest in homeless folks next time, fellas

Prop R: Neighborhood Crime Unit

This is one of those times where I have to shake my head at Scott Wiener. I’m cynical enough to believe this was a move to shore up some votes, but that doesn’t make it a good Prop. It designates that as long as the police force is meeting its charter-mandated minimum workforce of 1,971, at least 3% of the workforce is dedicated to “quality-of-life” crimes. May as well call this the Nextdoor Prop, because what shows up there is typically what I’d think of as the kinds of things a group like this would deal with. I have many issues with the American policing and San Francisco in specific, but telling them exactly how to use a certain percentage of their workforce is not one of them. I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible idea, and apparently neither did the Mayor and the Police Chief already support this, and I’m not sure why they are asking me and everyone else in San Francisco. They could have done it without me, and then if the exact nature of it wasn’t working (like say, the percentage),they could fix that without more ballot approval.

Why are they asking for ballot approval in the first place? The City is so vexing sometimes: NO on R

Prop S: Allocating the Hotel Tax

Only three set-asides this year…we’re slacking. The final one is setting aside a portion of the hotel tax for arts development and homelessness resources. The tax that is currently collected is discretionary in terms of its use. Its original intent was to fund arts programs, and in recent years, that has changed, so in comes this measure. But we’re coming back to the same problem with set-asides. It doesn’t solve a pressing problem, it just requires a certain amount of funding for certain purposes. That restricts what the City can do with it in future years. We need more flexibility in that regard. It’s not that we shouldn’t fund them. We can, and do, with the tax we collect. It’s that we need to be able to adapt to whatever circumstances we face in the future. Since it’s not really addressing a specific need and it just creates more issues with adaptability, I feel like that’s not a great reason to put this into the Charter.

I love the arts as much has anyone. I agree they need funding. I just don’t think they need it quite like this: NO on S

Prop T: Lobbyist Gifts and Reporting

Every night when we go to bed we all just whisper a thankful prayer we are not lobbyists, right? Thought so. It’s a definitely a word we all have associations about. We already have several measures designed to increase the accountability and transparency of lobbyists in regards to gifts and reporting, but these are more stringent requirements. It’s one of those measures that most groups support. Again, it’s another time where they probably could have taken care of this without it coming to the ballot, so here it is. I think I have better things to do with my time than divest too much energy in this one. I don’t think it’ll be that harmful, though it has some requirements that could definitely use a little work in my opinion, I think we’re just moving into an era where we have an increased desire for transparency because it’s that much easier to provide. While I think creative people and institutions will find ways to work around those requirements (both a personal and professional opinion) and I don’t really care that much about it, if you are going to take the time to ask me…

Keep your receipts and turn them in in a timely manner: YES on T

Prop U: Affordable Housing Eligibility

Why is that measures that always have names like this never do what they purport to do? Finally, at least a ballot Prop that does exactly what it says. It raises the income limits on who qualifies for the affordable housing. San Francisco has a cool chart and everything. This kicks it up to 110% instead of 100%. Which doesn’t seem like much in this city. But it also doesn’t seem like this really solves all that much. It’s not aiming to increase the actual available stock. It’s just saying who should get to qualify should come from a larger pool. I don’t see what this addresses, other than making it even harder for lower-income residents. Yeah it’s hard for those of us in the middle too. But I don’t need a cut from them to get mine. Given this fails to actually address anything, it’s another easy decision.

Why do you keep asking me these questions, San Francisco?:NO on U

Prop V: Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Every election, there’s the one issue that generates far more mail than the others. This year that honor quite clearly goes to Prop V. Some will tell you it’s a grocery tax; some will tell you it’s a soda tax. Even that phrasing pretty much tells you how this breaks down. The job of good advertising is to sell you something, whether it’s true or not. In this case, Big Soda kicked in $9,795,000 (as of October 11) through their organization, the American Beverage Association, to let you know that this is a tax that hurts small businesses because owners will have to pass on the costs to customers or absorb them. Not a typo. They have spent almost $10 million in San Francisco alone. They are also fighting similar measures in Albany and Oakland. But I digress. The same advertisements say very little about what is actually being taxed. And when you dig into it, that’s not where things are being taxed. Of course, that’s not going to stop costs from being passed on. But they ain’t taxing your local bodega. They are taxing a distributor.
Prop V is not our first attempt here in San Francisco at a soda tax. And I call it that because that’s what it is. It’s a tax on soda. Look, I don’t really drink it anymore, so I don’t care. But my general stance is I’m very much pro-sin taxes. I don’t mind things that are bad for you or bad for the environment existing, per se. I love driving a car. That doesn’t mean gas should be so cheap. And if you told me, well, what if there’s a tax on alcoholic beverages next, you know what I would say? Good. Plenty of countries charge much more for their alcohol because it is much more heavily taxed (hello 60-95 Kroner beer in Stockholm). I understand there are two large problems with this. One, I am doing okay, so perhaps I should get off my high horse about who is buying soda. It’s easy to get into too much finger wagging about how poor people spend their money. Any tax like this is inherently going to be regressive. Two, who the fuck am I to tell anyone else what to do with their time? It’s their body, their choice what they want to put into it. Both are fair arguments, though I think the cost one is a bit extreme, much like Ed Lee rolling back Sunday meters to help people with the high cost of living here. I don’t think that’s really what’s driving it, or what will really help that much.

Still, a world raised on soda has costs. And those are costs we all pay. Nothing’s happening at a higher level, but that’s not an excuse for us to not do anything at the local level. I think soda is something that we don’t even question, and we should. Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. But perhaps it should be appropriately costed. And perhaps we should do more to make people aware of those costs. Raising the price does seem to lead to lower consumption in the places that have levied such taxes. There are many things we look at and we say “how did our society ever support this?”. Taking a long view, it’s hard not to look at the excess of Double Big Gulps as something like that.

Fuck Big Soda (or Big Pop if you prefer): YES on V

Prop W: Transfer Tax

A lot of the orgs and papers I trust that generally align with my viewpoints are against this one or have no position. This is to increase the transfer tax on residential and commercial properties on the high end, stuff $5M and above. Nothing I’ll be dealing with anytime soon. And I don’t think anyone really finds that end objectionable, at least based on what I’m reading. It’s more what it’s supposed to accomplish and how it’s supposed to accomplish it. We already have the highest transfer tax around on those high end properties, capping out at 2.5% for the very high end stuff. And this is ostensibly to help pay for Prop E and CCSF. But I worry about that. While I don’t like set-asides (and this shouldn’t have them), we should probably be coming up with a different solution. In addition, there’s nothing to say those transfer taxes won’t be paid by onto the consumers at those businesses and the potential renters at those properties. In addition, a tax like this begins to look scarier as whispers of a cool down approach. We shouldn’t be saying something that may not continue is going to fund those programs.

I think, perhaps, we should sit this one out, though I’m guessing this one is gonna pass. Won’t affect me either way…I hope: NO on W

Prop X: Manufacturing and Arts Space

24 Props later and here we are at…this? Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for arts, small business, and community services, but my brain has pretty much melted at this point. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be supporting. But the gist, as I understand it, is the City will require developers in the Mission and South of Market to build replacement space if they remove production, distribution, and repair uses of 5,000 sq ft or greater as well as more stringent requirements on institutional community uses and arts uses. It also would require conditional use authorization before changing the property’s use. It also is just beginning to look like words at this point. And while I’d like to think I’m having trouble figuring this out because I’ve reached the point where I’ve just read too much to retain anything, I think I’m actually having trouble figuring this out because it’s complicated. Add to the fact something like this doesn’t need to be on the ballot and is probably more easily handled by the Board of Supervisors, especially should needs change. Anyway, I thought this is what we elected them for. It sounds good, and feels good, but I do not feel qualified at all to be making complex decisions about things I barely understand.

Come to think of it, that describes the entire experience of voting in San Francisco: NO on X

District Propositions:

Measure RR: Keep BART Safe and Reliable 2016

I am not writing these in order, but no matter, Prop 13 will come up a lot. If you have the time, I’d highly suggest going through some of the old Props in the State of California in general (something I have not done nearly thoroughly enough myself) as well as the Props in the City. Those I have spent a little bit more time with. What they help do is they help paint a picture of how we got here. But to understand BART, one has to take a regional and state approach.

BART first opened for passengers on September 11, 1972. It was built at the same time as the Metro in DC, as anyone who’s been on trains in both systems will tell you. And while it has not spawned anything quite like Metro has, it is plagued by similar problems with reliability. The funny thing about infrastructure is that you can’t just build it and walk away. What we’ve done as a country with many of our systems is just that, though. Further, not only do these systems require maintenance, they frequently require more maintenance. Old systems break and experience more problems through use. That’s just reality. BART is no spring chicken. But there are many older transit systems in the world that are still running (though, they could probably use some money to if they are in the States). It’s a question of the resources we dedicate. The reality is a $3.5 billion bond isn’t going to fix years of us not doing it, but like they say, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. Throwing your arms up and saying BART sucks so why should we give it money is not going to make it better. Which isn’t to say we should just write them a blank check. They deserve serious scrutiny for some of their forays (the Oakland BART connector just doesn’t justify its cost; their ongoing issues with escalators; their quixotic stance to keep bathrooms closed due to terrorism concerns while they install flooring worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in escalators to stop people from going to the bathroom in them). But let’s be real. Mass transit is awesome. BART is the system we have. We should make it better. I am not a daily rider, but I appreciate the convenience with which I can jet over to Oakland to catch a show or catch up with friends or just to go to Oakland because technology is awesome and I can spend $6.50 roundtrip and do it.
This is a regional issue. Many of the problems we face as a region we have to solve piecemeal, as they trickle down to city or even neighborhood level. The fight for housing, the fight for BRT in places on Geary or Van Ness, those things are like that. It’s no way to fight it. It’s not often we get the chance to do things like this as a region. And sure, things like Prop 13 may have broken the underlying structure to fund a state so that we need to keep looking at levies and individual one-offs to solve these sorts of things, but the mistakes we made in the past (hey, I’m a Californian too, gotta own that even if I wasn’t alive or here for it) cannot continually be used as excuses to not do anything now. I’d rather we didn’t have to fund this with a regional measure and we had an underlying tax base that paid for all of this, but I’m not working with fantasy, I’m working with reality, and even in a different reality, a levy like this would be a likely scenario. It mostly goes toward track renewal, but there’s also some funds for exploration of things that we desperately need as a region (a second Transbay tube) and even towards making the system more open to all users. Even if you never ride it, a lot of people do and you benefit from that. Yes, you. Not everyone can, or even wants to drive. Even as much as I love my bike, that’s not a realistic option for everyone. Let’s keep making decisions that reflect that in our infrastructure.

Let’s keep BART moving forward: YES on RR

City and County:

Board of Supervisors District 1:

We finally arrive at one of the more important ones that will have impact on me because this is my neighborhood. District 1(D1) is The Richmond (and the Farallones!), Lone Mountain, and oddly, a very small piece of the Panhandle. Eric Mar is termed out, and let us utter a brief halleluiah to that. He is best known outside the City due to this masterpiece of Daily Show reporting. More recently, he’s tried to push the tech payroll tax, has uttered some baffling things about density comparing The Richmond’s density to Brooklyn, and supported a positively insulting proposal in regards to the Affordable Housing Bonus Plan (AHBP). The AHBP is what has really galvanized me to be much more pro-housing, after the number of outright lies that people told to fight that, I am all in on housing. It’s very much what informed my voting in June in the primaries, and it’s what drives it now. I love The Richmond; it’s a pretty awesome neighborhood. I live walking distances from multiple excellent Burmese places. Walk north and I am in the Presidio, walk south and I am in Golden Gate Park. The Ocean is three miles away. There are great Irish dives, Green Apple Books, and The Tidy Shoppe for all my brow needs. There’s a lot of cool stuff in my neighborhood. I would love to imagine a future where I can continue to live in it even if something happened to my place, but I can’t. It’s just utterly unrealistic. That’s why I’d like more of the Richmond. I’d like better transit; I’d like better bike lanes; I’d like better density. In fact, I’d love to see this neighborhood actually be as dense as Brooklyn. That’d be something worth bragging about. Because that means we’d be doing much better at housing people here.
It’s a rather crowded race to represent D1, with 10 candidates running in a ranked choice system, there are a lot of choices. You can vote your passion, and still make your vote count in ranked choice, but I’m not going to break down all 10 for what most see as a two-person race between Sandra Lee Fewer and Marjan Philhour. Fewer is the progressive in this race, Philhour, the moderate. That split tells you much of what you need to know. I’m disappointed that Philhour is for Prop Q, but not particularly surprised by it. On the other hand, I am a very big fan of the fact she’s against Props H and L, which are misguided at best and actively harmful at the worst. San Francisco’s solution frequently seems to be more government, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. I dislike Fewer’s platform on housing, because I think when we only support affordable housing, we end up supporting nothing at all. Also she’s a big fan of the whole “Density Done Right” model, the 100% affordable AHBP, which I think is a horrible model to move forward with. I honestly don’t know where folks who want 100% affordable think the housing is going to mystically get paid for from, at least without buy-in in the form of lots of money from state and national levels. I think that’s an insulting proposal. I do think she’d be a strong tenant’s rights activist, but I’m not sure saying you have the endorsement of the SF Tenants Union is the way to my vote, either. Fewer also has a lot less in her transportation plank than I’d like to see other than a jab at the BRT, which isn’t working because we aren’t letting it work.It shouldn’t take 14 years to build, and I think putting another progressive on the board is just another way of stretching that to 15 years or beyond.

Honestly, I’d like to see what the moderates can do. I feel like many of their ideas align more with my own. I get a bit confounded by some of the rather quixotic measures the progressives pursue here. Certainly, I’ll have my disagreements, as they tend to be more pro-police on the whole and again, the moderates mostly appear to be lined up behind Prop Q, which I think is a misguided measure. But it’s not about finding the perfect candidate who aligns with the issues I believe in 100%, because that’s just not what politics is about. It’s about finding folks you align with well, it’s about helping to nudge those folks more into alignment with you, and it’s about realizing there are a lot of other folks nudging for that alignment as well. The only way you’ll get a candidate you agree with entirely is if you run yourself. That’s true from the Presidency on down to your local Supervisor. In the end ,this is no different. It’s not about finding the perfect candidate, it’s about finding a very good candidate.

Marjan Philhour is a very good candidate, in my opinion. She gets my first choice vote

But it’s ranked choice, so let’s close and throw a little love Andy Thornley’s way. I love a lot of the things he believes in, as someone who is obviously pro-bike (I see him out on the streets periodically) and someone who is very much himself on many positions. I think he represents a lot of good things, and honestly, many of the great things about government at the local level. It is a place to get involved, and he represents that. He deserves a vote for that in my opinion, second choice to him.

 
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